CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation has received a $200,000 grant from The Duke Endowment to support Vision To Learn, a national nonprofit organization that operates mobile vision clinics to provide free screenings, eye exams and glasses to economically disadvantaged students. The foundation serves as fiduciary agent for the grant, which provides $40,000 this year and $160,000 incrementally until 2024 to serve students at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
Vision To Learn reports that about 1 in 5 children needs glasses to see the board, read a book or participate in class, but about 95% of children who attend school in low-income communities do not have the glasses they need. Students with uncorrected vision problems often avoid reading, suffer headaches and experience difficulty focusing in class. Research conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, finds that grades among children who receive glasses from Vision To Learn improve an average of 8%.
“With this grant, The Duke Endowment demonstrates exceptional long-term commitment to improving the lives of Mecklenburg County children,” said Ann Caulkins, president of Novant Health Foundation. “We are excited to partner with The Duke Endowment and Vision To Learn to quickly remove success barriers that too many Mecklenburg County students face. While students will experience immediate benefits from this program, the long-term benefits of improved student performance and opportunity will be immeasurable for the community.”
Vision To Learn partners with the school district and provides a program model that makes it easy for students to access eye care. The program begins with vision screenings for all students in the school conducted by a school nurse, local health department staff member or by tools and staff provided by Vision To Learn. After the initial evaluation, Vision To Learn coordinates with schools to schedule one or more visits from the organization’s mobile vision clinic.
“We are truly grateful for The Duke Endowment’s generous support and for our partnership with Novant Health,” said Ann Hollister, president of Vision To Learn. “Thanks to this grant, Vision To Learn will serve more than 14,000 Mecklenburg County students over the next five years.” Hollister points out that more than half of students served will be African American or Hispanic, and that more than 80% will be economically disadvantaged.
“The Duke Endowment saw this grant as a way to support a promising effort aimed at better outcomes for children,” said Lin Hollowell, director of the endowment’s health care program area. “Through this early intervention program, we can address a challenge for students – and help them stay on the path to success.”